What do you look for when searching for a space to go to a retreat? Some might say amenities, others might look for a majestic location, and some follow a teacher whom they love. For Chris and Jim, managers of Seven Circles Retreat Center, developing a retreat center that would have a lasting impact on the lives of their guests wasn't just about the pool, the ideal location and bringing the best teachers to their space. It was about building the perfect place. A place that fostered acceptance and community. Here’s their passionate story about the inclusivity that makes their center so special.
So Let’s start at the beginning: in search of a location for a gay men’s retreat they were facilitating in November 2014, they traveled up from Los Angeles County and immediately were enchanted with Seven Circles Retreat Center.
“When we first came up here, it was night already and I just put my foot out of the car. And you smell the wild air, you gaze your eyes up to the sky and you see all the stars and you feel: oh, there's something here.”
It turned out the non-profit board members were open for new management and the pair went from venue searching for their retreat to being full-time hosts on a mission of openness and welcome.
“The mission that drives us now is complete openness and inclusivity. So, we have groups that have come and laid their prayer cloths towards the Mecca and have prayed at our center, we’ve had Indians come…, Jains, we’ve had a Jewish group come here… we have had Protestant churches, Catholic churches, groups that advocate for people of color, family reunions, yoga, meditation, AA recovery, we have had all kinds of groups.” And this is what Chris and Jim seek to curate: a place where people of all walks of life can be themselves and feel completely at home.
“So, I think in our space it’s pretty much an empty canvas… It's just open, so when people come they feel very welcomed. They don't feel they're stepping on someone else's faith, on someone else's religion or practice. The Center turns into who they are when they get here.”
This intentionality has also allowed them to become a space where marginalized populations can finally feel at ease. “Spaces are not readily available [for LGBTQ events]. Many retreat spaces have a religious foundation or things like that, depending on how the space presents itself, [they] also tend to perhaps trigger, in a negative way, LGBT folk that have been ostracized as a result of religion.”
So ultimately, Chris and Jim have created a safe space. No one feels ostracized. No one feels unwelcome. The aim is that No one feels like their spirituality or very being is in conflict with anything they find at the center. And safety, when an individual or group are seeking a place to practice spirituality, gather for addiction recovery, or dive into the vulnerability of meditation, is of utmost importance.
At Seven Circles, leaders are able to come and adopt whatever their organization is trying to offer their guests. “So, for example, if it’s a transgender group that’s coming up to celebrate a transgender day of remembrance... they can come up and not be triggered by any paintings or posters or anything like that.” There is no need to hide anything away, not in the main meeting room, not in the bathroom. Everything, everything radiates inclusion.
We wanted to know how they measured success. Their answer, practically spoken in unison, "repeat guest and referrals". Chris and Jim are approaching their 5 year anniversary as managers and have enjoyed many groups that enjoy Seven Circles 2 and 3 times a year and for up to 14 night stays. Recently a personal growth retreat held workshops for 10 out of 12 months.
Seven Circles Retreat Center is growing. In just 2 years Chris and Jim have brought on an intern, an experienced cook, and committed cleaning support. They are making upgrades and repairs and have plans for expansion.
So when we asked what the vision is for the future of this beautiful retreat space, Chris and Jim happily replied: “To flourish, to flourish and grow here. It's a safe spot, a safe place and if we can add to it...the more the merrier, no?”
Everyone is welcome.
Chris and Jim have managed Seven Circles Retreat Center since 2014 and are excited to be coming up on their 5 year anniversary. They met in Hawaii and have been a couple for 12 years. They enjoy travel and between them have been to over 70 countries. “Traveling gives us the opportunity to meet and develop new friendships.” They have connected with other retreat centers around the world giving them a unique perspective and appreciation for the call on their lives. “We so enjoy hosting groups from all over the world.” The intention of the center is to be a welcoming space that motivates, inspires, and provides rest. Visit Seven Circles center page to learn more and view upcoming events.